Southside family spreads cheer to neighbors through holiday display
By Marianne Coil
Raymond Ferguson usually waits until Thanksgiving to turn on his outdoor holiday lights, but this year, neighbors petitioned for an early start. In October he began to install 15,000 to 20,000 lights on his property in the 3800 block of South Sherman Drive, where he lives with his wife, DeForest, and his son, Logan, an Ivy Tech student.
Early in the week of Thanksgiving, he was testing the installation, when neighbors, especially children, asked him to leave the lights on. Students also begged him to run the display in the morning so they could see the show from their school bus.
Lifting everyone’s holiday spirits is what motivates the Fergusons to keep “expanding and expanding” the display, he said. The 57-year-old began the tradition with one outdoor tree after his son was born. Years later, Ferguson is still trying to stage the unbeatable extravaganza.
“In my eyes, I haven’t achieved it,” he said.
This season, the wooded lot is adorned with explosions of color producing a flaming red bush, shimmering tree trunks, and spirals of light heralding the front entrance.
Ferguson has time to enjoy the holidays, because he hoards vacation days for the year’s end. An employee of Eli Lilly for almost three decades, he operates a computer that controls the production of insulin. By working three 12-hour shifts at Lilly, he had the flexibility to run Ferguson Construction, a residential home-building company started by his father, Raymond Ferguson Sr, who died in 1999.
Ferguson said his father had worked at Navistar while he operated his own firm.
As Ferguson approaches retirement, he limits his construction work to projects for mostly family and friends, he said. A graduate of Southport High School, he learned the trade when he was a teenager working with his father, who built Ferguson’s house and several others in the neighborhood.
Ferguson’s mother died when he was an infant, and he had four older sisters. His favorite Christmas memory dates to when he was about 10 years old. For the occasion, his sisters had put up a photo that showed the children when they were much younger. “I remember just staring at it,” he said. His mother was not in the picture, but the happiness in the smiles warmed him.
The holidays allow him to catch up with family, to enjoy services at St John’s Missionary Baptist Church, and to volunteer at the Holy Family Shelter on the Westside.
At home, “We love to deep-fry turkeys,” he said, adding that his wife’s sweet potato pie is “just excellent.”
And the outdoor display has a finishing touch with an invitation to the public from the North Pole, he said. A life-size Santa Claus figure is on the front walk waiting for passersby to stop in the driveway to get out for a picture with the jolly old elf.
“Have a wonderful Christmas!” Ferguson said.